Maria Sharapova in Girls' Final
Article from i7 Sport portal
Maria Sharapova is a champion in the making. Allsport.
IT will be no surprise when, in a couple of years, Maria Sharapova stamps her name all over the women's game. The 14-year-old Russian is tall, blonde, and tanned, and she has a flattened-out forehand that calls to mind Venus Williams. She beat Taipei's Su-Wei Hsieh in three sets this afternoon to advance to the girl's singles final. But that's not why we're almost guaranteed to see more of Sharapova in the future.
Sharapova is the latest off the Nick Bollettieri production line. She has been training at the Sports Academy Bollettieri started in Florida - the academy that nurtured Monica Seles and Andre Agassi to name but a few - since she was just six-years-old. She won her first girl's tournament in October 2000, aged 13, and is playing here unseeded against girls up to three years her senior.
A journalist dubbed her "Kourni-clona" last year, after another famous Bollettieri graduate, but Sharapova said: "No, thank you. I want to be a winner." Lacking confidence she ain't. She lists her favourite tennis player as herself.
Sharapova struggled in tumble-dryer conditions in her semi-final against Hsieh on Court No2 this afternoon, but she dug deep enough to win 7-6, 2-6, 6-3. She leaned on her racquet after a particularly long rally early in the third, but pumped herself up soon after and closed out the game playing faster, fitter tennis.
Hsieh is the tournament's No9 seed but she hits the ball so softly that sometimes - if there is a breeze - you can't hear it come off the racquet. Her only real weapon is her willingness to tear after every ball that arrives on her side of the net. Most of the points Hsieh won on serve came from Sharapova's errors: forehands a foot long, backhands punched an inch or two wide of the sideline.
In contrast to Hsieh, when Sharapova nails a forehand you know about it. She also hits a strong-shouldered double-handed backhand. Her first serve is solid enough, but her second isn't much chop. She hails from Sochi, in Russia, the same Black Sea resort that gave the world Yevgeny Kafelnikov. On her performance so far this week, she has all of Kafelnikov's game and every bit as much self-belief.
She will play Czech No7 seed Barbora Strycova in tomorrow's final.